Coping with Stress

Work. Relationships. Traffic. The climate. Some unforeseen circumstance causing you to run late. You name it, there are many factors outside our own control that cause stress in our daily lives.

What you can control, in many situations, is how you respond to stress. How you manage your mind.

Pressure & Stress Can Be Beneficial

Learning how to manage our stress response is an important life skill, but we also have to accept that some pressure is an inescapable part of life.

Reasonable levels of stress help us motivate ourselves to get things done and take action, in general. Whether that’s in the workplace or in the home.

Stress can also make us feel alive and alert. That’s where the attraction lies for so-called ‘thrill-seekers’.

It’s when stress gets out of control that we begin to feel overwhelmed and our decision making suffers.

Conditioned Responses

When you’re under stress, your brain is anticipating a threat.

Take the example of running late for work due to traffic, the internet being down or some other unforeseen circumstance. In your mind, you might start feeling stressed about your reputation being damaged.

Your brain is anticipating this reputational damage as a threat, and thus it begins to respond by creating thoughts and other physiological reactions in your body. The tightening of muscles in your upper back, neck and face. The increase in your heart rate. The slight trembling in your hands.

These are essentially conditioned responses that occur out of our control, but these types of responses can be recognised.

Recognise & De-escalate

Your job is to recognise these types of physiological responses that are indicators of your stress response having been activated by your own mind.

Then, you can start the process of reducing the stress mechanism. Essentially, you’re telling your mind that the response isn’t necessary. It’s a false response – an overreaction to the situation at hand.

What you’re doing here is telling the mind that it needn’t be working as hard as it is. The adrenaline and cortisol that’s being released aren’t serving you in this situation. This is what effective stress management looks like. Coping with stress is about not allowing yourself to get swept away by an over-active stress response.

If you’re looking for practical stress management responses and more information around the actions you can take when you recognise that you’re feeling anxious, you can find more helpful answers in my book Ten to Zen here.

Look after yourself and keep looking on the bright side. I’ll speak to you soon.


P.S. For regular tips on looking after your mental health, follow me on my social media, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Head in hands to illustrate being stressed